Helen Pamely, Partner in Rosling King’s Litigation Group, shares her passion for mental health, wellbeing & Atticus Finch.
What was your route into the profession?
I studied Law with German Law at the University of Nottingham (with a fantastic year abroad at the University of Göttingen in Germany!). At the end of my final year I secured a training contract with Linklaters. I went on to do the Linklaters-specific LPC and then trained and qualified there.
What has been your biggest career challenge so far?
I would say the biggest overall career challenge has been finding a work-life balance that works for me. I’m a big believer in following your passions, both inside and outside of work, and having enough time for family, friends and enjoying life’s simple pleasures. Life in the fast lane as a City lawyer doesn’t often leave a lot of space for these things. However, I feel that if we can integrate these important aspects into our lives, then we will be better lawyers and happier people overall!
Which person within the legal profession inspires you most?
Currently, I feel very inspired by Alice Stephenson, founder of Stephenson Law, who I follow on Instagram. She is constantly posting about how we can do things differently in law, challenging the status quo and shaking up out of date perspectives and stereotypes. She was a teenage mother (at which point people apparently told her to limit her horizons), she has lots of tattoos (refusing to cover them up!) and she actively speaks out for the empowerment of women and also more diversity in the profession. Alice is also a strong advocate of self-care, fitness, plant-based nutrition and the importance of personal and family life. In short, I’m a big fan!
If you weren’t a lawyer, what would you choose as an alternate career?
So I actually do have my own side hustle! I’m coming to the end of a Masters in Mindfulness-Based Psychotherapy and have my own private psychotherapy practice (www.therapywithhelen.com; Insta: @helenpamely). I’m really passionate about mental health and wellness, particularly in relation to what can be done to improve this in the legal profession. I plan on fusing my grassroots day-to-day knowledge of what it really means to be a lawyer (including high standards, high expectations and workload, along with long hours) with my more recently acquired knowledge on mindfulness, psychology and psychotherapy. I hope that through writing articles and offering talks and experiential workshops on mental health and wellness issues, I can help others build awareness and understanding around how they can be happy, healthy lawyers (both professionally and personally), in mind, body and spirit!
Who is your favourite fictional lawyer?
It has to be Atticus Finch from Harper Lee’s novel ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ (published in 1960). Set in the 1930s, Atticus Finch is a lawyer in the small, fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama, and defends a black man, Tom Robinson, accused of raping a white girl and facing an all-white jury. Atticus is deeply moral, fair and kind and earns respect from the African American community for defending Tom Robinson, despite being ostracised and ridiculed by much of the white community. One of my favorite quotes of all time is where Atticus Finch says: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it”. Touching on the importance of justice, compassion and empathy, for me, these words capture the unusual territory, where law and psychotherapy meet.
What change would you make to the profession?
It would be to reduce stigma around mental health and increase dialogue and awareness around this topic. There’s no doubt that there are lots of great initiatives out there and people are speaking up more than they used to. However, damaging and unhealthy working practices and cultures still very much pervade our profession. You only need to look to the Junior Lawyers Division wellbeing surveys to get an idea of how worrying the situation is. There is still a lot of lip service paid to mental health. We need real and tangible change and the leaders in our profession need to be practising what is preached, so that juniors can have the confidence to follow. This is even more so in light of Covid and how it has changed our work and personal lives.
How do you relax?
For me it’s all about the small things. Now that it’s summer this includes morning coffee, exercise and meditation in the sun! Then there’s spending quality time with family and friends… and, of course, a good party!